New Delhi: In some good news in the fight against HIV, fresh data by the UNAIDS shows that new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% and the number of people succumbing to the disease has decreased by 10%.
According to new data in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years.
Since 2001, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15% lower, which is about 400,000 fewer infections in 2008.
In East Asia, new HIV infections declined by nearly 25% and in South and South East Asia by 10% in the same time period.
In Eastern Europe, after a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidemic has levelled off considerably. However, in some countries there are signs that new HIV infections are rising again.
The report, released today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic, HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.
Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said “the good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due to, at least in part, HIV prevention”.
The number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10% over the past five years as more people gained access to the life saving treatment.
UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatment in 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved.
The report found that 33.4 million people are living with HIV worldwide, 2.7 million people were newly infected in 2008 and two million people died of AIDS related illness in 2008.
The data also shows that at 33.4 million, there are more people living with HIV than ever before as people are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy and population growth.
“International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up have yielded concrete and measurable results,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of WHO.
Antiretroviral therapy has also made a significant impact in preventing new infections in children as more HIV- positive mothers gain access to treatment preventing them from transmitting the virus to their children. Around 2,00,000 new infections among children have been prevented since 2001.
One of the significant findings of the report is that the impact of the AIDS response is high where HIV prevention and treatment programmes have been integrated with other health and social welfare services.
Early evidence shows that HIV may be a significant factor in maternal mortality. Research models using South African data estimate that about 50,000 maternal deaths were associated with HIV in 2008.